Libya’s supreme court blocks legal challenges to draft constitution

Libyan cadets march a graduation ceremony for a new batch of the unity government's Special Operations Force, at Abu Sitta Naval Base in the capital Tripoli on February 13, 2018, attended by the unity government's prime minister. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Libya’s supreme court blocks legal challenges to draft constitution

TRIPOLI: Libya’s supreme court blocked legal challenges from lower courts to a draft constitution on Wednesday, paving the way for a possible referendum on the document and a move toward elections, a lawyer who helped draft the text said.
Establishing a constitutional framework is widely seen as a key step in efforts to stabilize Libya after years of anarchy following a 2011 uprising.
The oil-rich country has splintered in recent years into local fiefdoms, with competing parliaments and governments set up in the east and west of the country backed by rival armed alliances. The United Nations is hoping that elections can be held by the end of the year.
Members of a Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) had voted last summer in favor of a draft constitution, but an administrative court in the eastern city of Bayda had ruled that the vote was invalid.
The supreme court effectively quashed the Bayda decision by declaring that administrative courts do not have the jurisdiction to rule on matters relating to the CDA, said Omar Naas, a CDA member.
The draft constitution could still face hurdles, including challenges in the supreme court, turnout or approval requirements set by the eastern parliament or House of Representatives (HOR) for a constitutional referendum, and the difficulty of holding a nationwide poll in a country where there are no national security forces.
Some of Libya’s minorities have also said they were excluded from a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious drafting process.
But Naas said the text was for “all Libyans,” and greeted the supreme court’s decision as “historic.”
“The next steps are for the House of Representatives to discuss and write the referendum law that will enable Libyans to decide their fate,” he said.


Tunisia fishermen turn tide to cash in on blue crab menace

Updated 12 min 21 sec ago
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Tunisia fishermen turn tide to cash in on blue crab menace

  • Tunisians have named the fearsome-looking blue crabs as Daesh
  • The blue crab, once a native of the Red Sea, first showed up in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia’s coast in 2014

DJERBA, Tunisia: Tunisian fishermen saw the blue crab wreak such havoc on their catches when it first appeared that they nicknamed it after the terrifying militants of the Daesh group.
But now — four years after these scourges of the sea invaded their waters — the predators have turned into prey as fishermen in the North African country cash in on the crustaceans.
Jamel Ben Joma Zayoud pulls his nets out of the water off the Mediterranean island of Djerba to find them full of blue crabs with their fearsome-looking spikes.
“Look, there are only Daesh, they’ve destroyed everything,” he says, using the term for the militant group that has become the crabs’ nickname.
The blue crab, once a native of the Red Sea, first showed up in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia’s coast in 2014 and immediately set about snapping up the rich pickings it found.
“It quickly became a curse,” Zayoud, 47, tells AFP. “It eats all the best fish.”
There are two explanations for how the blue crab, or Portunus Pelagicus, made it all the way to the shores of Tunisia, says researcher Marouene Bedioui, at the National Institute for Marine Sciences and Technologies.
Either their eggs were transported on boats to the region or they arrived as part of a lengthy migration that started when the Suez Canal opened in 1869.
However the crabs turned up, their impact has been damaging.
The hard-up fishermen along the coast, already struggling to make ends meet, felt the pinch as the crabs attacked their nets and the local fish.
“One thousand, one hundred fishermen have been hit by this plague in Gabes,” said Sassi Alaya, a member of the local labor union.
“Nowadays we change our nets three times a year, while before it was once every two years.”
In 2015 and 2016, fishermen demonstrated over the issue — and eventually the government took notice.
The authorities last year launched a plan aimed at helping fishermen to turn the pest into profit.
They were taught how to trap the crabs and the government began subsidising the cost of purchasing what was caught.
Plants popped up to freeze the crabs and ship them to markets in the Gulf and Asia where customers are willing to shell out for their meat.


Blue crabs investment
One of them is managed by a Turkish company — putting to use the experience it gained dealing with an influx of the crabs back home.
Each afternoon a line of refrigerated vans forms outside the facility delivering the crabs caught that morning from nearby harbors.
“When the crab appeared we didn’t know how to make money from it,” said Karim Hammami, co-director of the firm Tucrab.
“Tunisians didn’t consume it so the fishermen avoided catching it — but when investors came in and the authorities began moving we started targeting foreign markets.”
In the first seven months of this year, Tunisia produced 1,450 tons of blue crab worth around three million euros ($3.5 million), the ministry of agriculture says.
For those making their livelihoods from the sea, the transformation has been stark.
“The situation has completely changed,” said fisherman Zayoud.
He has now started going after fish with his nets, and crabs with cages.
So succesful have the fishermen been that they are now even planning to limit themselves in order not to deplete crab stocks too much.
And even they have got a taste for their former foe.
For their lunch, Zayoud and his crew select, cook and tuck into a healthy male crab.
“Daesh eat all the best fish,” explains the fisherman.
“So their meat has to be delicious.”